Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Kimberly Lundstrom, writing for Tangent Online, seems to have enjoyed my story "The Sky is Large and the Earth is Small" from the July issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. (I've received my subscription copy, but haven't seen it on the newstands yet, nor does the Asimov's site list it as the current issue yet.)
"The Sky Is Large and the Earth Is Small" is an intriguing tale from Chris Roberson's alternate world, in which dynastic China, instead of Western Europe, rose to world domination. Cao Wen, a low-level scholar in the Ministry of War, seeks a "guest" held by the emperor's secret police, the Embroidered Guard. It appears that this prisoner, Ling Xuan, traveled across the sea to the Mexica years before and may have information for Cao Wen's report to the Minister of War, a report that could make or break Cao's career. Expecting to quickly extract the necessary information from an old and broken prisoner, Cao instead finds a man who is at once a canny bargainer and a philosopher who has more to offer than Cao expects.And the review blog Yatterings carries a new review of The Voyage of Night Shining White, which approaches the story from an interesting perspective.
In Ling Xuan, Roberson presents a fascinating character—enigmatic and frustrating, but human and empathetic. The setting, too, is rich and invites exploration. I will be seeking out more of Roberson's work.
Despite its slight appearance, it is a book of extraordinary grace and poise.Both of these are Celestial Empire stories. I just finished another CE, Iron Jaw and Hummingbird, and am now starting on yet another, The Dragon's Nine Sons, and chances are as soon as that one's done I'll be starting on Three Unbroken, another... you guessed it... Celestial Empire novel. As my editor at Solaris was quick to point out, by the end of this year I'm likely to be very weary of the Celestial Empire, and ready to write about something else for a little while...
I do wonder whether this is a space opera of manners. In Fantasy of Manners, the action is judged on how well something is said and done, not the action itself which is almost a necessary byproduct. This is certainly the case in this novella in which the motion is generated by the crew members talking to each other and revealing their histories. The captain relates how he became a eunuch and plays out the political background on Earth whilst the other members reveal something of themselves. Each person becomes human and not just a rivet in the skin.